You know what they say about United. They beat up people. Well, not all people, of course. You need to be a customer first. But it’s what they don’t say about United that I wish I would have known about. For example, they don’t tell you that while there will be Wi-Fi on the flight it won’t work. Neither do they tell you that their “premium economy” or “economy plus” seats will be equivalent to—or below the standards of—many competitors’ standard economy class. Nor do they tell you that perhaps a third of the passengers will be forced to check their carry-ons because there is always a shortage of overhead compartments.
“It’s like this on every flight,” one of the gate agents would be informing me. “There’s never enough room for all the carry-ons in the overhead compartments.” Well, if this is standard procedure for them, why wait for boarding to inform us? Couldn’t they have told me about this before the ticket was purchased so that I’d know to fly with a more reasonable competitor? After all, if others like me would know to choose a different airline, wouldn’t that effectively free up enough room on future United flights for everyone’s carry-ons? And emptier flights would mean a smaller attendants-to-passengers ratio, thus greatly simplifying United’s time-honored tradition of, you know, beating their passengers to a proverbial pulp.
Okay. So here’s why the cynicism. My flight to Tel Aviv is expected to arrive around 4:00. I must be at the Masada Terminal to join up with the vice president’s entourage by 4:45. I don’t have the luxury of taking a detour to the baggage claim area. In fact, journalism has taught me how to nail down the science of fitting all necessary clothing, toiletries, food, winter gear, religious articles and computer+photographic equipment into just a carry-on, a backpack and a camera case that clips on to the briefcase precisely so that I shouldn’t need to meander over to the baggage claim area and wait for my belongings like some yokel. And to compound matters, there’s a good chance that we’re not going to take off on time, as there’s one idiot who’s fighting with the overly-polite gate agent that an exception must be made in his case, as if he’s something special.
Wait. So it turns out the arguing “idiot” is me. And I’m fighting, really. I’m begging. Mathematics, it is explained, doesn’t care about my sense of urgency. My stack of official credentials isn’t going to affect matters of space (though, prolonging my protests could affect matters of time).
My options? I could opt out of the flight which would make me later to the point of infinity. I could waste more time before giving in and arrive somewhat later than necessary. Naturally, I took the third recourse, which was to give in for the time being, solve any time-constraint issues when the time comes, and jot down the sum of my anti-United sentiment in the time between.
They say that the first piece of luggage to arrive at baggage claim never belongs to anyone. Well, today was the exception. Even that first bag didn’t arrive.
Good things, we’re told, happen to people who wait. In this scenario, the return of luggage is all that happens to the people who wait.